President Joe Biden has hailed the joint global sustainable steel arrangement between the United States and European Union that would ease some tariffs on steel and aluminum and curb “dirty” Chinese steel imports, calling it a “new era of trans-Atlantic cooperation.”
In a joint address at an Oct. 31 press conference in Rome with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Biden called the agreement a “major breakthrough that will address the existential threat of climate change while also protecting American jobs and American industry.”
The agreement will immediately remove tariffs in the EU on a range of U.S. products that were enacted during former President Donald Trump’s administration and lower costs to U.S. consumers.
It also will ensure “a strong and competitive U.S. steel industry for decades to come” while protecting workers and industry by creating “good-paying union jobs at home,” Biden said.
Biden also said the new agreement would “lift up U.S. aluminum and steel” and “incentivize emission reductions in one of the most carbon-intensive sectors of the global economy.”
The deal would also “restrict access to our markets for dirty steel from countries like China, and counter countries that dumped steel in our markets, hammering our workers and harming them badly along with the industry and our environment,” Biden said.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters that the deal would maintain U.S. “Section 232” tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum while allowing “limited volumes” of EU-produced metals into the United States duty-free, although officials didn’t specify the volume of duty-free steel to be allowed into the country under a tariff-rate quota system agreed upon with the EU.
The agreement also grants an additional two years of duty-free access above the quota for EU steel products that won Commerce Department exclusions in the past year.
The deal requires EU steel and aluminum to be entirely produced in the bloc—a standard known as “melted and poured”—to qualify for duty-free status.
In March 2018, Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent levy on aluminum imports. Some countries were permanently exempted from the tariffs, including South Korea, Argentina, Australia, and Brazil, while the levy on Canada and Mexico was lifted after the signing of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.
The tariffs were put in place after a Section 232 investigation found that foreign products were a threat to U.S. national security. However, it led Europeans and some other countries to impose counter-tariffs on U.S. products, including whiskey, motorcycles, bourbon, peanut butter, and jeans, among other items.
Raimondo said on April 17 that the Trump-era tariffs saved jobs in the United States.
“With respect to tariffs, there is a place for tariffs. The 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum have in fact helped save American jobs in the steel and aluminum industries,” Raimondo told reporters at the White House.
However, on Oct. 30, the commerce secretary applauded the new agreement for “protecting American jobs.”
“By agreeing to this framework, we are protecting American jobs, we are showing that clean manufacturing can be good for business and consumers, we are creating more incentives for steel and aluminum consumers to purchase American and European products, and we are helping the planet,” Raimondo said in a teleconference with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
“For far too long, China was routing its cheap steel into the U.S. via Europe and other markets, which drove down prices and made it essentially impossible for [the] American steel and aluminum industry to compete. And of course, in so doing, hurting the industry, hurting our workers—so today’s agreement enables us to allow limited volumes of steel to enter the U.S. tariff-free while still protecting America’s steel industry by ensuring that all steel entering the U.S. via Europe is produced entirely in Europe.”
Allen Zhong and Reuters contributed to this report.